Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Testing BBs for accuracy

by B.B. Pelletier

Yesterday we looked at BBs to see how uniform they were. I didn't measure or weigh them, which I normally would have if uniformity was what I was after, but what I really wanted to know was whether it made any difference on target. A lot of airgunners waste their time (I think) worrying about details that really do not matter in the end. If pellet B shoots the best, who cares that it has the largest weight variance or the greatest dimensional difference? Obviously, not the gun! Since the purpose of shooting is to hit the target, I usually cut to the chase as soon as possible. How does it do at the range?

The test
I used a Daisy Avanti Champion 499 to test all BBs. The targets were placed at 5 meters (16.4 feet), and the range was lit properly for shooting with aperture sights. I shot offhand. Although I'm not a great rifle shooter, I can usually keep them on a dime at this range. I shot about 20 warm-up shots to get into the groove and to allow my pupils to dilate to the target light. Once I was warmed up, I shot three groups with each of the three BBs - Avanti precision ground shot, Daisy Premium Grade BBs and Crosman Copperhead BBs. The shooting was in rotation, with the first type of BB, then the second and then the third. Once the first three targets were completed, I rotated back to the first BB for target No. 4, and so on. That way, each BB got a fair break from me.

Uniformity is demonstrated
The 499 is loaded for each shot by dropping a BB down the muzzle. You can hear it roll down the precision smoothbore barrel and click to rest against a magnet at the end. How long it takes to roll down demonstrates both the size and the uniformity of the BB being loaded. Avanti BBs took the longest to roll down, ranging from 2 to 5 seconds apiece. However, there were a few that made it down in less than a second. Daisy Premium Grade BBs were all down in less than one second, with most ranging between one-quarter and one-half second to make the trip. Crosman Copperheads went the quickest, at between one-eighth and one-quarter second. That doesn't tell too much about the standard BBs, but it does indicate that the Avanti precision ground shot has the largest size variance of all. Who woulda thunk it?

Shooting the 499
The 499 is very light, so holding steady on target is more of a chore than it would be with a 12-lb. target rifle. Also, the single-stage trigger has a very long pull that doesn't help much. I tried to shoot before becoming tired in position on every shot, but holding a 3-lb. rifle is like holding nothing. I'm sure my technique was poor as a result.

I didn't go downrange to look at the targets until all shooting was finished. That kept me from biasing the results by trying harder. BB holes don't show up well in target paper. Since a lot of them were in the black, I really didn't know how it was going until the whole thing was over. I zeroed the gun with Avanti shot, and both standard BBs shot low and to the left.

The results
All three BBs turned in great targets. I cannot say that there is a difference between them, except I did get one really great group with Daisy's Premium Grade. That group was pure luck, because the other two groups were no smaller than either of the other BBs. The largest group was made by the Avanti shot, but it's clearly a case of a bad shooter, because the other two groups are right in there with the other two BBs. The most uniform groups were shot with the Crosman Copperheads, which had the smallest cumulative group size. I guess that lays to rest any doubt about their accuracy potential. Like everything else, that was luck, too, but it demonstrates that if the shot is good, the BB goes where it should.

This group of Daisy Premium Grade BBs was the best of the session. The rest grouped about three-fourths the size of the dime, except one really bad group of Avanti shot.

My verdict is that both Daisy and Crosman BBs are equally accurate, despite how they appear. I plan on shooting the Avanti shot in the 499 from now on, simply because it is made for the gun. Maybe some day I will shoot good enough to merit it.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Who makes the best BBs?

by B.B. Pelletier

This posting was suggested by a reader who commented that Crosman Copperhead BBs don't seem as uniform and well-finished as Daisy premium grade BBs. He wondered whether they would be as accurate, so I thought a little test was in order. Just for the record, I'm talking about steel BBs today.

First, the BBs
To most of us, all BBs look the same. I don't suppose most shooters look at their BBs through a jeweler's loupe, but that's what I did to see what our reader was talking about. He said Crosman BBs are much rougher on the surface than Daisys, and that they had the flat spots left from the forming process. I was surprised to hear the latter, because I thought all BB-makers had gotten rid of the flat spots, so I looked at a brand new Crosman Copperhead BB with a loupe. Indeed, it had a flat spot, while the Daisys did not. Also, the surface was much rougher, just as our reader had said.

I also pulled out an Avanti precision ground shot to compare it to the modern Daisy Premium Grade BB. It appears to be no smoother than the standard Daisy BB and is still not a perfectly smooth sphere like a ball bearing.

How BBs are made
A BB starts out as a piece of steel wire that is chopped into rough chunks quite a bit larger than BB size. Those chunks are fed to two steel plates that have a long spiral tapering groove. One plate turns while the other remains stationary, which rolls the rough chunk into a sphere. From there, it goes on to grinding, where it is reduced in size to the desired caliber. Next, it gets a flash plating of some anti-oxidant, such as copper or zinc. Then, it's sorted by centrifugal force in a long spiral slide. The good BBs go on to packaging and the rejects become scrap. I saw this process in the Crosman plant, where they produce 10 million BBs every workday.

Each spool of steel wire (stacked in twos) in the Crosman plant weighs about a ton. About 100 spools await the wire cutter. Making 10 million BBs a day takes a lot of material!

Daisy made some upgrades
I haven't see Daisy's process; from articles others have written over the years, I know it's essentially the same. Joe Murfin, their vice president of marketing, told me they installed a new sorting machine a few years ago, and it made a big difference in the quality of their BBs. According to him, it isn't that their process is that much better, but their sorting is controlled very tightly. I haven't seen it, as I said, so I can't comment, but I've taken extreme closeup photos of all the BBs and I'll let you be the judge.

Crosman's BB looks roughest, and is the only one that has the flat spot (looks like a crater in the center of the BB).

Daisy premium grade BB is smoother, but not without imperfections. The dark spots on the upper left are reflections.

Avanti precison ground shot looks no smoother than the standard Daisy BB. It is unplated.

We'll test them!
Following the first reader's comments, there was some speculation about whether or not it mattered that a BB was more uniform. I really don't know the answer myself, so I thought I would devise a little test to see if there is a noticeable difference. You airsoft guys should enjoy this, because you have the same situation with the BBs you shoot.

Friday, October 27, 2006

BAM B40 in .22 caliber: Part 4

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

by B.B. Pelletier

I love my job! Yesterday I got out on the range with the .22 caliber B40 for the accuracy test. The day was fairly calm; but the wind that was there, was squirrelly. It was swirling in all directions, so I had to wait for quiet periods to shoot.

Same scope
I used the scope we saw mounted yesterday, which took three shots to sight-in at 10 feet. At 25 yards, the pellet was a little high, so a couple more shots brought it down to where I wanted it. After that, it was a five-shot group after group after group of 3/4" spreads. That's good but far from great. And, I had such high expectations for this rifle!

Excuses, excuses...
Any good rifleman worth his salt can manufacture multiple reasons for his inaccuracy at the drop of a hat. In fact, the skill becomes second nature in most shooters. As I cursed the mediocre groups, my mind began turning over some possibilities. The wind is always a good scapegoat, but on this day it wasn't bad. Probably no gusts over 5 m.p.h., but coming from all directions as I noted earlier. However, as light as it was and only shooting at 25 yards, I couldn't really use it. Well, maybe as a backup!

The same annoying bugs were out that I complained about when I tested the .177 B40. They were perhaps a little less annoying, but they still flew into my eyes and nose, which bothered me a lot. I shot well before, despite their pestering, so that was another good excuse down the drain.

The trigger became bad
Remember in Part 1 how happy I was about this rifle having a real two-stage trigger? Well, yesterday it reverted to the same ultra-light trigger that plagued the .177 test, and I didn't have the tools to correct it at the range. Sometimes it let off with a two-stage pull; but most of the time, it broke at about 4 oz. of single-stage take up. I would slowly take up the slack as the reticle was settling down and then WHAM! - the shot went off when I wasn't prepared. After blowing a few groups past the one-inch range, I realized what was happening and settled down to use the trigger the way it now wanted to be used. The shots were still surprising me, but I was locked on target when they went off, so once again, excuse blown.

And then a miracle happened!
I had taken four pellets to the range, but realized at this point that I'd only been shooting JSB Exacts. Well, sure I was. JSBs turn out to be the most accurate pellet time after time, so why would I want to waste my time trying anything else? But that doesn't explain which I also put Logun Penetrators, Beeman Kodiaks and that old tried-and-true Crosman Premier in my range bag. I had to acknowledge that each of the other pellets had been known to beat out JSBs in specific rifles in the past - that was why they were in the range bag.

So, what the hey! I loaded a Crosman Premier into the breech and let fly. It made a hole in the target, a little higher than the JSBs. Then I shot a second one. No new hole. Hey, I know Premiers may not be as accurate as JSBs, but there is no way I could miss that huge 10"x12" target at only 25 yards. I fired a third shot. This one landed a short distance to the left. Could shot two have gone through the same hole as the first shot? It must have, because that's where shots four and five both went! The group measures exactly one-half inch, and the four in the same hole measure 0.159", center-to-center.

The .22 B40 out-shot its .177 cousin! This half-inch group was the best 25-yard group I shot, and the four in one hole measure a bragging 0.159," c-t-c.

Apparently, the B40 in .22 caliber is also a good shooter - just not with JSB Exacts. At least the rifle I tested seems to think Crosman Premiers are the cat's pajamas. I am reminded that not every air rifle likes the same pellet. I only shot a little more, but the Premier was firmly established as the pellet of choice for this rifle.

What have we learned?
I have learned that some Chinese airgun manufacturers can rifle barrels for sporting airguns, and this BAM company really seems to deliver the goods. I still will guard my enthusiasm because the Chinese do not have a good track record for staying the course. If BAM were to do so, I think the end will have come for British and German sporting airguns. The Brits are having their own problems just making the guns, and now there seems to be a viable replacement on the street.

However, the BAM still needs trigger work and a stock without wood filler. They could also stand a higher polish on the metal surfaces, but let's stop right there. These two rifles, the .177 and .22 caliber BAM B40s, have exceeded any requirements I might have for accuracy. They are both powerful and accurate, which is 90 percent of the game, in my opinion.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

BAM B40 in .22 caliber: Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Let's move right along. Now that the rear ring is secured against the scope stop, it's time to attach the front ring. Get it attached to the dovetail but don't tighten it yet. First, you have to determine where it should go. Use the scope for this. The scope has a tubular area on each side of the turret where the scope rings will clamp. I like to position each of my rings close to the middle of this area. This is where two-piece rings are better than one-piece, because with one-piece you have no choice where the rings are. Positioning either one of them also positions the other.

The rings are installed, but the front ring still needs to be positioned using the scope.

On smaller scopes, this tubular area is short. The scope I'm using is considered a compact scope, but Leapers also makes some compact scopes that are even smaller. The smallest of these absolutely must have two-piece rings, as there is no room to maneuver. The reader who asked for this post was obviously concerned about a scope being too long for the B40, so the objective bell would be located over the place where the rifle is loaded. There is no fear of that! I positioned this compact scope too far forward because of the recoil stop that was used. If the rings had had a stop pin, I would have mounted the scope another inch back. I could still slide it back a little, as the picture shows, but I left it there for the sake of clarity. Lift the rifle to your firing position and check the eye relief of the scope. If you do this carefully, the scope will stay put.

Position the front ring with the scope, so there is equal distance on either side of the ring. Then tighten the ring in place.

Once you slide the front ring to where you want it, tighten it and the rings are mounted! The next step is to attach the scope caps and position the scope.

Attaching the scope caps
I'm using 4-screw scope caps and so should you. The 2-screw caps are too narrow and put too much force on the scope tube when tightened. You may not notice this on a Leapers scope because its tube is machined from a solid billet of aluminum; but on other scopes that have thin tubes of drawn aluminum, denting will occur. Do not tighten the caps yet.

Leveling the reticle to align the scope
This is an easy step, but shooters go to great lengths to make it complex! Simply align the scope until the vertical reticle seems to bisect the rifle. The drawing should help. Believe me, I have used collimators, I've leveled the gun and scope against a bubble level at 50 yards and I've gone through all sorts of silly gyrations. Nothing works better than what I'm showing you here. You don't need any tool for this; you do it by eye. And, every time you pick up that rifle, the scope alignment will look right to you because you aligned it yourself!

Simply move the scope until the vertical reticle bisects the rifle.

Tighten the scope caps
This next part is important. Don't randomly tighten the cap screws. There's a procedure. Look at the picture. Starting with the front cap, tighten the top right screw. Tighten it only until it is snug - no more. Then, do the same to the lower left screw. You have now snugged two of the four screws on that cap. Move to the rear cap and do the same - top right and lower left screw. Come back to the front cap and tighten the top left screw, followed by the lower right screw. Do the same for the rear cap screws.

Go around again in the same pattern as before. Keep doing this until the screws no longer move. This procedure will be recognized by mechanics as the same one used to torque the cap bolts on connecting rods in an engine. It spreads the force as evenly as possible. The cap screws do not have to be incredibly tight to hold well. They just have to be uniformly tight.

Use the pattern of tightening recommended in the text.

That's it! Once the rings are tightened, you're ready to sight in. If you later discover that the scope seems to be canted, you can always go back and do the alignment procedure again. After you've mounted a few scopes, the process becomes second nature and goes pretty fast. This would be a good time to read Tom Gaylord's article about how to sight in a scope.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

BAM B40 in .22 caliber: Part 2

Part 1

by B.B. Pelleiter

Before I begin today's post, here's an update on the Evanix AR6 pistol review I promised. Josh Ungier of Pyramyd Air told me yesterday that they sold out of the first pistols, so he ordered 100 more. He also said the grip will be smaller because the one on the first batch was quite large. He expects to receive those guns in a couple weeks, and I get the first one to test for you.

Now, for today. I was going to just shoot the .22 B40 for accuracy and let that be it, but one reader who seems to be a potential buyer has asked a lot of scope mounting questions. When I reviewed the past B40 posts, I saw that I glossed over that process. When you have the gun right there staring you in the face, it's difficult to envision what it must be like for someone who has never seen it. I told him I'd do a special post about mounting a scope on this B40. Then, GadgetHead asked me about the sliding compression cylinder that drags on this rifle. I told him I thought it was a burr; but I said I'd lubricate it, and then we would know for sure. That turned out to be a good idea!

It's a burr!
I cocked the rifle, which slid the compression chamber all the way to the rear. I used a Q-tip to spread Beeman M-2-M moly grease around the inside of the outer tube. With the rifle cocked, I could easily slide the chamber back and forth. I expected the lube to reduce the friction, but instead it acted like layout fluid, immediately revealing the presence of a definite burr. The dark gray grease was scraped away from just the place where the scratches are. Thanks, GadgetHead! Now I know how to fix it.

Scope stop holes
Okay, on to mounting a scope on the B40. Let's look at the top of the receiver. At the rear of the 11mm dovetail grooves, there are three holes for a vertical scope stop pin to drop in. The stop pin is either located on the scope rings or it can be on a separate scope stop that goes behind the rear ring. The pin drops into whichever one of the three holes you select (I always use the rear one) and the pin is butted against the back of the hole. That way the scope mounts (rings) cannot move under recoil.

Use one of these three holes on top of the receiver to anchor the scope stop pin.

Scope stop
I used a separate scope stop because the 30mm rings I'm using don't have a stop pin built in. The stop is mounted first on the receiver, and the pin is positioned at the back of the rear receiver hole.

This scope stop has a pin that sticks down into one of the holes on the receiver. This is the underside of the stop. The two white things are synthetic bumpers to cushion the scope ring when it recoils into the stop. The yellow thing is a bubble level, but I don't use it because it's too close to my eye to see the bubble.

Mount the stop first
The scope stop is mounted first. It serves as the reference point for the rest of the work.

Position the scope stop with the pin at the rear of the preferred stop hole and tighten it.

The rear ring is attached next. Back it up against the scope stop and tighten the screws.

Mount the rear ring
I'm using two-piece rings, so I mount the rear ring first. I slide it back and butt it against the scope stop. Even though you tighten the clamping screws, this ring will continue to slide back as the gun is fired until the synthetic cushions on the scope stop are flattened out. No amount of clamping pressure alone can keep the rings from sliding back on a recoiling rifle.

Tomorrow, I'll finish this scope installation so we can move on to test accuracy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Crosman's new C11 BB pistol

by B.B. Pelletier

The new Crosman C11 BB pistol is a powerful new air pistol with exciting looks!

I was at Crosman recently and had a chance to test the new C11 BB pistol. This review is for a reader who learned about the gun before the rest of us and asked to see it a month ago.

A LOT of confusion!
There are two Crosman pistols that have the model designation C11. The first is a 6mm airsoft pistol (Crosman's term is "soft air") that uses CO2 to power the plastic ball. Now, most of you know that Asians call 6mm balls BBs, so this gun is called a BB gun. But, it doesn't shoot real steel BBs. When Crosman came out with a real CO2 BB gun this month, also called the C11, confusion began! The customer reps at Pyramyd are getting phone calls from customers who are mixing up the specifications of the two different pistols.

The airsoft C11 looks a lot like the BB gun except for the orange muzzle tip.

Here are the differences
The airsoft model has the federal-mandated orange muzzle. According to Pyramyd's site, its muzzle velocity is 350 f.p.s. And its full model name is the Air Magnum C11. The CO2-powered BB gun (the one that shoots real steel BBs) is all black, has a muzzle velocity of 480 f.p.s. and is called just the C11. As far as I know, neither pistol copies any firearm exactly. Except for the orange muzzle on the airsoft pistol, these guns look remarkably alike.

The BB pistol
The C11 BB pistol is very powerful. With a muzzle velocity of 480 f.p.s., it really pumps out the steel! Although my test was less formal than usual, if memory serves, I got about three magazines from one powerlet. Since each mag holds 15 BBs, that's about 45 powerful shots.

The pistol feels very smooth and ergonomic in my hand. The grip is substantial but not overly large. I shot it only double-action, and I can't remember if it also shoots single-action. Double-action shooting is more difficult, of course, and I found I was pulling all my shots to the left. Once that became apparent from an enlarging hole to the left of the bullseye, I was able to compensate and do better. My impression is that the sights were right on for targets at 25-33 feet.

Get more magazines!
One nice thing about Crosman's shooting range is that there are boxes of loaded magazines, powerlets and AirSource cylinders behind the line, so I didn't have to do any work to reload. But, you'll want to have at least two spare mags loaded up because this pistol shoots fast! You keep on pulling the trigger and hitting targets. Before you know it, you've shot all 15 BBs.

Easily replaced powerlet
The grips slide back to gain access to the CO2 powerlet. You will note that no hint of the powerlet mechanism appears on the outside of the pistol. Crosman knows that buyers dislike any external cues to how a pistol is powered, and they've taken measures to conceal it in all their new pistols.

Remember safety!
This gun shoots steel BBs that can ricochet with force, so don't shoot at hard targets and always wear safety glasses when you shoot. Several years ago, I was shooting an Anics pistol of similar power when my lip was split by a BB that rebounded 33 feet from a steel trap. Crosman's model 850 BB trap is a great one for stopping BBs!

The biggest selling point is the price, of course. For what you get...power, accuracy and good balance...the C11 is quite inexpensive.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A look at China's B26 - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

My first look at the BAM B26 was back on September 18. At that time,.
00 I was surprised by the rifle's quality and seeming accuracy potential, though it didn't live up to that potential in the first test. The trigger was working poorly and I wanted a chance to look the rifle over before testing it again, because I felt it harbored more than it showed the first time out.

Into the trigger - NOT!
You will recall that the B26 is BAM's second attempt at copying the Beeman R9 (or HW 95). It has a lot going for it, but the trigger on the rifle I am testing is single-stage and lets off with varying force. Because this is a copy of a Weihrauch rifle, I was hoping that I would find an exact copy of a Rekord trigger when I popped the action out of the stock. Alas, that was not to be. Weihrauch and Beeman owners can rest easy; their Rekord trigger has not been knocked off. What we have instead is a Bizarro Rekord - if you understand the Superman reference. For those who don't...this trigger is an imperfect copy.

What it lacks is the Rekord's sophisticated sear adjustment. Instead, a much cruder adjustment mechanism takes its place. So, I didn't go to the effort of removing the trigger, but I did do something else that worked quite nicely. By tightening the trigger adjustment screw, I increased the pull to about 2 lbs. I now have a light, single-stage trigger - sort of the redneck approach to a Rekord. But, hey, it works!

Tightened all the screws
When I removed the action from the stock, I noticed that all the stock screws were loose...except for one. That never helps accuracy. When the rifle went back together, I made sure all screws were tightened the same.

Do as I say...
Two recent projects have renewed my interest in spring guns. The first was the long series on tuning a spring gun, where I was forced to come face-to-face with the internals of a springer once again. That awoke many old memories that are again fresh in my mind. The second big influence was the posting about Making a new spring gun ready to shoot. All those hard "rules" I dictated to you were things that I sometimes skipped. So, the loose screws on the B26 reminded me to do the other right things to give this rifle a fighting chance.

One very big thing I did was clean the barrel with J-B Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound. You might think that the bore would still be clean after just a hundred pellets have been shot through it, but that wasn't the case. Though it did clean up much faster than a brand new barrel, this bore was in need of some serious cleaning. After that it was on to the range - again!

Three pellets for best accuracy
The B26 is a .22 caliber, so I selected JSB Exact Jumbos (15.8 grains), Logun Penetrators (20.5 grains) and Crosman Premiers (14.3 grains). I could just as easily have included Beeman Kodiaks, but I felt the Loguns deserved a chance at bat.

Leapers tactical scope
You may remember that I used the Leapers 3-12x44mm SWAT Mini tactical scope with side parallax adjustment. The 30mm tube allows a lot of light to pass through, making this scope one of the brightest in my inventory. The reticle is thicker than I like for target shooting at long range; since I was shooting at only 25 yards, it didn't make much difference.

Wow! That's the best way to describe how this gun shoots. Of course, it is a breakbarrel and a copy of the Beeman R9 at that, so it takes buckets of technique to shoot well. But, when you do - wow! JSBs were good, as usual, with a 0.387" group being the best at 25 yards. The WORST group of JSBs was 0.581". The Loguns were also good, with a 0.381" group, but it looked larger than that, so I didn't shoot a second one. They are definitely a pellet to try. Crosman Premiers would not group at all in this rifle, which is strange, but it happens.

This was the smallest group made by JSB pellets. It looked like the smallest group of all, but Logun Penetrators squeaked past it.

This group of Logun Penetrators looks larger than the JSBs, but it measures slightly smaller. At 0.381" it was the best group of the day.

This is my last look at this B26, though I do have one with a thumbhole stock that I'll also test. Based on what I saw with this one, the B26 is a pretty nice air rifle. It's available in .22, something that's getting rare these days!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Gamo's new Viper Express air shotgun - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

It's been over a month since the first report, and we've heard from many Viper Express owners in that time. What they say pretty much agrees with what I reported in part 1, though one reader did have some success with the pellet insert, while another reader actually saw some skilled shotgunners break clay pigeons from station 8.

Many were surprised by the small amount of tiny shot in the shotshells. They reported penetration at 10 yards in cardboard boxes, and that lines up with what Gamo says. Today, I'll tell you what kind of ballistics are behind that performance.

Twenty No. 9 birdshot fill about half the Viper Express shotshell. The plastic cup is the base wad.

Looking inside the empty shotshell, we see the breakaway plastic retainer that holds the shot inside the shell until firing.

Starting with the shotshells
The black plastic shotshells hold 20 No. 9 lead shot. I think the picture speaks for itself. The shells are only loaded about half full, but that's because of the cumulative weight of the shot, which is 15.3 grains. The shotshells do not break apart in firing, as one reader reported, so they can be reused for a long time. This is good, because the price of $7.50 for 25 is too high for a lot of use, which is exactly what this gun requires for proficiency. Trap and skeet shooters all reload (nearly 100 percent of them!), so you're in good company. All that's needed now is a good reloading procedure, which I'll work on along with some of you.

Shotshell performance
The shot charge averaged 562 f.p.s. at the muzzle, with a velocity spread of 21 f.p.s. This equates to 10.73 foot-pounds of muzzle energy, but this small shot sheds energy fast. This is a very close-range airgun with shot.

Pellet performance
The Viper Express is a .22, so the following numbers represent more power than they would if this were a .177. RWS Hobby pellets weigh a nominal 11.9 grains and exit the muzzle at an average 666 f.p.s. with a spread of 13 f.p.s. That's a muzzle energy of 11.72 foot-pounds. Daisy Precision Max pointed pellets weigh a nominal 14 grains and average 595 f.p.s. for an energy of 11.01 foot-pounds and a tighter spread of just 9 f.p.s. RWS Superpoints weigh 14.5 grains and average 626 f.p.s. That produces 12.62 foot-pounds, so the Viper Express needs an FAC in the UK. The spread was only 6 f.p.s., which is remarkable for any spring gun - especially one that hasn't been broken in! The final pellet was Crosman's .22 caliber Premier. It weighs a nominal 14.3 grains (boy, am I glad I wrote the posting about pellet weights! Now you know what I mean when I say nominal weight.) and averaged 638 f.p.s. That's a muzzle energy of 12.93 foot-pounds. The spread was 10 f.p.s.

So, what do we know?
We know that the Viper Express is very well-behaved for a new spring gun. We also know that it has power in the 12-13 foot-pound region. It isn't rifled, but the diabolo pellet doesn't really need rifling to be reasonably accurate. I'm guessing this gun will shoot 1"-1.5" groups at 10 yards with pellets.

Next time I'll show some downrange performance.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Why do pellet weights vary?

by B.B. Pelletier

I'm writing this post for myself, as well as for the customer reps at Pyramyd Air. The situation is this...Pyramyd may list a certain pellet with a weight of 7.5 grains; but, when the customer receives his, they weigh 7.3 grains. Or. I may write a post in which I use a certain pellet that I say weighs 6.9 grains, but Pyramyd is listing it at 7.0 grains. Readers see these disconnects and wonder if anything they read is correct. Why should the weight of lead pellets vary?

Not talking about tolerances
Everyone knows that there will be small weight variations from pellet to pellet in the same tin. That is not the issue I'm addressing. I am talking about when the average weight of a certain pellet does not agree with the listed weight on the site or with the weight I have written in a posting. Why should pellet weights - the weight the company publishes - vary?

The business of making pellets
Pellets are made on automated machinery that runs constantly and turns out thousands of pellets each hour. In the larger companies (e.g., Gamo, H&H and Crosman), there are batteries of these machines turning out several million pellets every day. If you look at the types of pellets a company makes, and that includes different calibers within the same type, you'll soon see the number is very large. No company can afford to run machines to make every type and caliber of pellet they produce all the time, so these machines are scheduled to make different pellets to keep up with the demand.

Lead slugs
The pellet-making machines are fed lead slugs that weigh a little more than the final pellet. These slugs are usually cut from lead wire that is wound on large spools and fed into a cutting machine (large companies have many machines).

Pellets are formed by precision dies
A multi-piece steel die forms the lead slug into the pellet by either mechanical or hydraulic force. The pellet-making machine operates this die set, forming the pellet and removing the excess lead, called a sprue, after the pellet is made. In a large company, there are dozens or even hundreds of dies, all are either working in pellet-making machines or in storage awaiting their turn in the machine.

Production runs
Let's say a pellet company sells 50 million of pellet "B" every three weeks. It takes them four days to make that number; so, when they reach 50 million, they stop making pellet "B" and switch over to pellet "C." In another couple of weeks, it's time to start up the pellet "B" line again, so the dies are installed in all the machines. They're run and adjusted until the weights are as close to the nominal weight as they can get them. Because these machines are adjusted with each new run, they are not able to make the exact pellet weight of the new pellet until they have been adjusted and run for some time. Every time they get a new shipment of lead wire, they have to check the output of the machines to ensure they still make pellets of the same weight. If the metal supplier sent wire with a slightly different lead alloy, it will produce pellets of a different weight. Sometimes, that can be controlled...and sometimes, it can't.

Naturally, the company tries to smooth out the production cycle as much as they can, so there won't be any variation whatsoever, but you have to realize that it's also nearly impossible to control. Whenever anything changes - new pellet-forming dies, a new pellet-making machine, a fresh lot of lead wire, major maintenance to a pellet machine or anything else, the weight of the pellet can change.

There's a good analogy in reloading
Reloaders know that a turret-type reloading press with multiple functions will deliver good results, but not so good that there are no variances every time the press is run. The ammunition they make is often as good as factory ammo, but it's hard to make it any better with a fully automated reloading station. That's why benchrest shooters load at a single-station press and hand-weigh every powder charge and every bullet they load. They are like the JSB factory or the H&N factory making match-grade pellets.

If you have a real need for uniform pellets, do what the 10-meter shooters do. Buy your pellets 30,000 at a time and get all the same lot number. But, if all you want to do is have some fun shooting, you need to know that pellet weights are sometimes going to vary from the published numbers.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Pellet types

by B.B. Pelletier

Before I start, I'd like to thank all of you readers who are waiting for a certain report. This blog has become so popular that I have reports backed up in many categories. Don't worry, I will get to whatever you are waiting for, and you can check with me from time to time to make sure my infallible method of Post-It notes has not failed.

Today, I'm addressing the different types of pellets for a reader who requested it back in September. You must learn the difference between a diabolo and any other pellet shape. The diabolo has a wasp waist and a hollow skirt, both of which create drag in flight. More than the rifling twist rate, these two features stabilize a pellet for accuracy. Non-diabolo pellets rely on the rifling twist for stabilization. I'm going to discuss only diabolo shapes today, with the exception of round balls.

A wadcutter has a flat nose and cuts a perfect circle in target paper. It's used exclusively in 10-meter competition. It is well-suited for lower-velocity airguns and for hunting at short ranges (out to 25 yards). Beyond 25 yards, a wadcutter's accuracy starts falling off. Some other pellet types, such as the Beeman Ram Point and the RWS Super-H-Point, incorporate the wadcutter shape in different types of pellets (domes and hollowpoints).

A wadcutter has a flat nose. Left to right: Gamo Match, H&N Finale Match and RWS R10 Match. All are .177.

A domed or round-nosed pellet is just what it sounds like. They have the best aerodynamics and are used in field target, hunting and general shooting. Suitable for guns of all power levels.

Domed pellets come in all shapes and sizes. From the left are Crosman Premier 7.9-grain, JSB Diabolo Exact 10.2-grain and Eley Wasps. All are .177.

Once again, the name tells the story, except that there are many variations on the hollowpoint theme. The purpose is rapid expansion in game, and this is a 100 percent hunting pellet. Accuracy usually drops off after 25 yards if the hollowpoint is an effective expanding pellet. Those that don't expand usually perform better at long ranges.

Hollowpoints are designed for rapid expansion in game. From the left are RWS Super-H-Point, JSB Predator and the Beeman Crow magnum. RWS and JSB are .177, Beeman is .22.

Pointed pellet
Designed for the best penetration. To most eyes, pointed pellets look streamlined. At the ideal subsonic velocities at which airguns operate, this shape offers no advantage. Usually, a pointed pellet is not quite as accurate as a domed pellet at long range.

Pointed pellets are for penetration. The rings on the Beeman Silver Jet do nothing for performance. From the left are the Daisy Precision Max Pointed, RWS Superpoint and the Beeman Silver Jet. All are .22.

Round lead ball
A round lead ball is a superior penetrator and can be very accurate in some guns. Because it is a bore-sized projectile, it is safe to use in most airguns. Repeaters may have problems with the round lead ball, except those designed for it, such as the Drozd submachine gun. Round lead balls can also be used in some vintage BB guns. Because it is a sphere, there is no choosing of weights. A .177 ball weighs 8.1 grains and a .22 ball weighs 15.1 grains. Variations due to surface plating are usually within two-tenths of a grain.

A ball is a ball! Great for penetration. From the left we have Gamo round ball, Beeman Perfect Round and the Lobo round ball. Gamo and Beeman are .177. Lobo is .22.

Novelty pellets
There's always something different out there, and you will encounter some strange pellets. I lump them into a novelty category and seldom use them for anything.

Two novelty pellets are the Gamo Rocket (left) and the Gamo Raptor. Most novelty pellets have very little application in the real world, though in some guns they may offer better velocity.

I hope I've addressed the topic sufficiently.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What type of game is appropriate for a big bore airgun? - Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

Part 1

What does it take to kill a deer?
To humanely harvest a whitetail deer in the 120-150 lb. class, a bullet that has at least 200 foot-pounds at impact is sufficient...but, energy, alone, isn't enough. A .22 Magnum has enough energy, but the projectile is too small. However, a .45 caliber round ball or bullet will leave a large wound channel, causing the animal to bleed out quickly. But hunters need to understand what "quickly" means at this energy level. Use an arrow as a reference. Plenty of hunters take deer with bows, and an arrow shot from a longbow generates under 100 foot-pounds, yet it is effective. It kills through the animal bleeding out, rather than through shock. This is also how vintage black powder arms killed (most of the time). A .45 caliber round ball shot from a muzzleloading rifle and impacting a deer at 75 yards may only have 250 foot-pounds of force at impact, but it penetrates deep, causing massive bleeding. The hunter then waited at least 10 minutes after the shot (if it was a good one) before quietly tracking the animal. If all went well, the animal would be found close to where the shot was taken.

What can go wrong?
If the hunter charges off after the animal immediately following the shot, the animal will run as far as it can to escape. The adrenalin pumped into the body will carry it very far. That often results in lost game. By waiting, the animal will seek a quiet spot to rest, and it will expire in that spot. This technique used to be well-known to hunters, but the shock power of modern firearms has made it somewhat unnecessary, so people don't practice it any more.

Airguns for deer
To hunt deer with an airgun requires at least 250 foot-pounds of energy at the muzzle and the willingness to wait for a shot of no greater than 50 yards. If the rifle shoots a conical bullet instead of a ball, it retains its energy much better and can deliver the same performance as the black powder ball-shooting rifle. A Sam Yang Big Bore 909 is about the smallest rifle that should be used for this. Shoot the heaviest "pellet" (actually a bullet) that will shoot accurately enough to keep all shots inside a 4" spread at your maximum shooting distance. Shoot for the high part of the heart-lung region and be prepared to pass up any shot that doesn't give a clear view of the target. If you don't know where the heart-lung region is on a deer - LEARN! You owe it to the animal to make a good clean shot!

Other big bores
The ShinSung Career Dragon Slayer 50 is less powerful than the 909, so it's a little too weak for deer, but it can be used on smaller game, such as coyotes, javalinas, nutrias and woodchucks. The 9mm guns, for example, Fire 201S and the Career Ultra, are too weak for deer but can handle woodchucks and raccoons.

Airguns for bigger game
There are airguns that produce 500, 600 and even 1,000 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. These are the guns used to take mule deer, wild boar, elk and bison. However, they come at a price. The cheapest start at over $600 and go up to more than $8,000. A hunter has to be extremely dedicated to airguns to spend that kind of money when a replica black powder Hawken muzzleloading rifle sells for $450 and generates the same power or better. The only legal advantage of using an air rifle is for convicted felons who have lost their rights to keep and bear arms. You still have to obey all the hunting laws of the state in which you hunt. Also, airguns may not be legal for taking big game in some states.

This posting was started because someone asked if an air rifle was appropriate for hunting bear. I hope I have answered that question (no, it isn't) and others you may have had. The real advantage of shooting a big bore airgun is because you can. For centuries, they were the toys of the wealthy, but today anyone can own one. How you use it should be tempered with common sense.

Monday, October 16, 2006

What type of game is appropriate for a big bore airgun? - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Before I begin, a reader named max_power176 emailed Pyramyd Air requesting a report on the Marksman 1010 pistol. Pyramyd contacted me, and I want that person to know that I will do a report on the gun. For future reference, the best way to contact me is by leaving a comment on any one of the postings. I read them all and respond to those that require it.

Second announcement - I will soon report on the Crosman C11 that shoots steel BBs! We have at least one reader who is excited about this new pistol, and I had the chance to shoot one last week, so I'll get right on it for you.

Crosman's new C11 BB pistol joins their lineup with the other "4 horsemen of the AIRpocalypse." I will cover it for you soon.

Today's post is at the request of Joshua Ungier, the owner of Pyramyd Air. He gets questions from customers all the time about appropriate game for the big bore air rifles he sells. I am going to do this once, but I do not want to get into a long discussion about hunting and what gun is appropriate for which game.

There's game...and then there's GAME!
Game varies a lot from region to region. Whitetail deer, for instance, can vary in weight from a stunted 65 lbs. to around 300 lbs. (live weight). That's a huge spread, and the larger animal requires more energy than the smaller one for a humane kill. The difference in energy required isn't great, but it does take more to put bigger game down. The common North American black bear weighs 200 to 600 lbs., but there is a runt variation I call a honey bear (not supposed to live in North America, but they do) that seldom weighs more than 145 lbs. When these small bears are fully mature they look like black bear cubs. The energy needed to take the smaller bears would be significantly less than that needed for a 600-lb. black bear.

The difference between subsistence hunting and hunting for sport
We know that Eskimos have been harvesting seals for more than a century with .22 rimfire rifles. They also hunt polar bear with the .22 Hornet. These cartridges are not recommended for game larger than woodchucks or coyotes when sport hunters use them, but in the hands of a skilled subsistence hunter, one who is willing to die when things go bad, they will do the job. I have personally killed a whitetail doe that probably weighed 100-120 pounds, using a .22 long rifle. The deer had been gut-shot by a neighboring Bubba using a 12-gauge shotgun (with birdshot!!!), and had to be put out of her misery. The head shot was taken at less than five feet and was instantly effective.

The REAL problem
The problem with hunting big game with airguns is that not all hunters are responsible sportsmen. Whenever the wrong person reads information like I'm putting in this post, they selectively filter out what they don't want to think about and start creating a fantasy about what is possible. They read, for instance, that Philippine farmers kill water buffalo with Farco air shotguns and immediately start planning a safari. The fact that those farmers shoot a spear tipped with dynamite escapes their comprehension! If they do get out into the woods with an airgun, the chances are good they are hopelessly under-gunned and poised to do something very stupid. Fifty years ago, these people were called "arm-chair hunters" because all of their expertise came from reading, not from actual experience.

There have been some SERIOUS mistakes made by airgunners!
In the 1970s, there was a fellow who wrote about killing wild goats on California's Catalina island with a .177 FWB 124 spring rifle. That's correct, a sub-12 foot-pound air rifle used to kill goats. They are small goats, to be sure, but it's still not right. There is a DVD being sold that shows an 800-pound elk shot with an air rifle! It took three shots and too many long minutes for the animal to succumb, and it was all recorded on video that anyone can see. WORST OF ALL was that the video Gamo showed at the 2006 SHOT Show where a Gamo Hunter 1250 killed a reported 180-lb. boar with a Gamo Raptor pellet!

Ladies and gentlemen, these incidents are going to give legitimate airgunners a black eye if they become well-known. They are unsportsmanlike and have no business being allowed to happen. However, there ARE legitimate uses for big bore airguns!

Tomorrow, I'll finish this report with detailed information about what big game can be taken with a big bore air rifle.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Diagram of a pneumatic valve

by B.B. Pelletier

A reader asked for this information, and I expect that many of you are curious. I'll talk about the basic design of a pneumatic valve, and everything I'll cover applies to CO2, with a few modifications I'll mention

This is a knock-open valve
The most commonly used air valve in airguns today is the knock-open valve. To operate it, a valve stem is struck by a weight called a hammer that is driven by a spring. The inertia of the impact moves the valve stem in the same direction. There is a synthetic valve face on the valve stem that holds the high-pressure air (or CO2) inside a reservoir until the valve is open. A valve-return spring behind the valve face starts the valve moving back toward the closed position after the valve has opened as far as it can. Once the valve stem starts to return to the closed position, the pressure of the air or gas in the reservoir also pushes on it. That's because the pressure inside the channel of the valve body is always a little lower than the pressure in the reservoir. If it weren't, the valve would remain open longer, dumping a lot of the air in one shot. The little valve-return spring exerts a huge controlling force over the valve because of this pressure differential.

Let me illustrate...with gross exaggerations!
The following illustrations show huge clearances inside the valves, when, in fact, they're really quite small. Clearances are one place where pneumatic and CO2 valves differ. CO2 gas is a molecule of two oxygen atoms bonded to one carbon atom. It is relatively large compared to the size of oxygen, nitrogen and other gas atoms found in air. CO2 flows slower than air and needs a larger passage to go through. Let me put that a different way. If you were to shoot a CO2 gun filled with air that's pressurized to the same pressure as CO2 (about 853 psi at 70 degrees F), it would be significantly more powerful.

These two illustrations of the cross-section of a pneumatic valve illustrate how the valve works. The other parts of the gun (reservoir, barrel, hammer, etc.) were left out for the sake of clarity.

Many variations of valves
The illustration is of no specific valve. It is just a representation. AirForce Airguns valves, for example, have a hollow valve stem through which the air flows. Rather than attempt to show all the different styles of air valves, I wanted to show just one simple style to give you the general idea of how they work. I left out the hammer and hammer spring, which would be on the right side of the valves shown above, and the reservoir, which would be on the left side. I didn't show how air gets from the right side of a valve into the barrel, but it is done through a passage called an air transfer port. Any other places where the air might go are sealed with O-rings.

How the valve is designed and set up determines performance
Looking at the illustration, you should realize that the longer the valve remains open, the more air will flow through it. You can affect how long a valve remains open by the strength of the return spring, the pressure inside the reservoir, the length of travel of the valve stem and the inertia of the hammer. There are limits, however, which is why you don't get an increase in power beyond a certain point when you install a heavier hammer or a stronger hammer spring.

On the other hand, Tim McMurray still makes a rifle called the US-FT that gets filled to only 1,800 psi at the most and still delivers 60 Crosman Premier 10.5-grain .177 pellets at nearly 900 f.p.s. before the pressure drops by only a small amount and the gun needs to be refilled. The secret with this gun is a well-balanced valve that doesn't require raw pressure in order to function. McMurray substituted dwell time for the extra pressure, to extract all the performance the air has to offer.

So there you have it, sports fans - the design of a valve. They all differ somewhat, but the underlying principles are the same.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

BAM B40 in .22 caliber: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Let's over to the .22 caliber B40. The criteria are still the same. Just because the .177 performed so well doesn't mean I will cut this rifle any slack.

B40s have an adjustable 2-stage trigger!
The owner's manual was packed in the .22 box, so now I know how to adjust the trigger. I will cover that in a later segment, but trust me, the B40 does have a real 2-stage trigger. I know that because the trigger in the .22 came properly adjusted! That removes one of the harshest criticisms I had for the .177. Finally, I know how to make that trigger work as it should.

No need for duplication
The .22 B40 is essentially the same rifle as the .177 except for the caliber, so there's no need to cover every point again. You can go back and look at the first report, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 if you want to know the basics. I'll report differences as I see them. The trigger was the first; now, let's talk about the stock. This one has less wood filler (but it still has some). It's a lighter shade of Asian walnut and feels exactly the same as the .177.

Cocking the .22 seems a trifle harder than the .177. It may just need a break-in, but there is more internal rubbing going on. When I looked inside the place where the chamber slides, it was immediately apparent what was happening. Part of the chamber is dragging inside the gun as it slides. This area can be lubed with moly grease to reduce the friction. When I initially closed the sliding chamber to fire, the ball detent that holds the underlever seemed very stiff. All it needed was to have a part screwed in tighter and everything went back to normal. Remember what I said about getting spring guns ready to shoot? Looks like I should take my own advice.

Linear scratches inside the outer tube indicate some rough spots on the sliding chamber. Lubrication or careful filing may eliminate the friction.

The rifle shoots nearly the same as a .177 TX 200. There is no spring twang, but there is a bit more of a forward jolt. The silencer in the shrouded barrel is just as effective as the one in the smaller-caliber rifle. The pleasure of a positive two-stage trigger has me anticipating my trip to the range. I hope this rifle is just as good a shooter as the .177 turned out to be. There's a small indication that it will be, because the rifle shoots like it's been tuned!

Extreme consistency
I got the rifle out of the box and immediately went to the chronograph. That's not a recommended way to do business with a spring-piston gun. You should allow it to break in with at least a few hundred shots before clocking anything, but I just couldn't wait. Imagine my surprise when the numbers turned out so good that it looked like the gun had been custom tuned. Crosman Premiers averaged 701 f.p.s. with a high of 707 and a low of 697. That's an extreme spread of just 10 f.p.s.! The muzzle energy for the average shot was 15.61 foot-pounds. I would expect that to improve with a break-in, because the .177 rifle hit a high of 16.34. You usually pick up 20 percent more power when you move up from .177 to .22. JSB Jumbo Exacts averaged 652 f.p.s., with a maximum spread of only 7 f.p.s.! That's where regulated PCPs usually are! Energy for the 15.9-grain pellet was 15.01 foot-pounds.

I'm going to do three things to this rifle. First, I'll adjust the trigger to just the way I like it. Second, I'll lube the area where the sliding chamber drags to see if that can be reduced. Lastly, I'm going to mount a more powerful scope on this rifle than I used to test the .177. Since there is no TX 200 in .22 caliber to compare it to, I want to see everything this rifle has to offer.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Webley Patriot/Beeman Kodiak

by B.B. Pelletier

Webley Patriot is a man-sized air rifle

A reader requested this post a few months ago. With the Webley reorganization last year came the decision the build the airguns in other countries. Webley decided on Turkey, having promises from the makers that no quality would be lost. I certainly hope that is true, because the rifles and pistols actually made by Webley (i.e., not the FX precharged guns) were some of the best sporting spring guns around. The Turks have their work cut out for them!

Original Webleys are going fast!
Although Pyramyd Air does have a few Webley Rifles left, they are dwindling fast. The .22 and .25 caliber Patriots are already gone. All that remains are a few .177s. All the Beeman Kodiaks, which are Patriots with a different name, are also gone.

Patriots are BIG!
The rifle weighs nine pounds and measures 45.6" long. That doesn't sound too large, but when you have one in your hands it seems gigantic. That comes from the full-cut stock that Webley uses to reduce wood breakage from shock and vibration.

They are hard to cock
A Patriot requires about 50 lbs. of effort to cock. If I am prepared for it, I can cock it with one arm a few times; but, if I don't hold the rifle just right, there's no way I'm going to cock it even once! First, the muzzle has to be slapped to break the barrel past the super-strong chisel detent. Then, it's armwrestling time as you lever the fat steel barrel down to sear lock. After about 50 shots, your arm will be sore unless you are a bodybuilder or work a hard physical job.

Patriots are a .25 caliber dream!
The big .25" pellets were the main reason the Patriots were created. In England, they are so far above the legal limit that the British Home Office never allowed them to be de-tuned - although Ivan Hancock attempted to do just that. He got the power under 12 foot-pounds easily enough, but the Home Office ruled that all Patriots were FAC, regardless of what the chronograph said. With light to medium weight pellets a .25 will generate nearly 30 foot-pounds. No, that isn't a record for spring rifles, but it's pretty close. The .22 gets up to 28 foot-pounds and the .177 gets about 24 foot-pounds with the right pellets.

They kick and they vibrate!
Patriots kick more than any other smallbore air rifle that I know. They push your shoulder back at least one inch and feel like a 30/30 fired from a medium-weight rifle. That's if you hold the rifle tight to your shoulder, which Tom Gaylord said he had to do to get the best accuracy when he tested the Patriot. Some Patriots also vibrate a lot while others are quieter. I don't know why that is, but I have seen it. A vibrating Patriot will shake your teeth loose in pretty short order, and I don't know what to do about it. Maybe a cheek pad would help.

Special scope mounts
To keep the mounts from walking off the rifle under recoil, Webley put several transverse grooves across the dovetails. B-Square is the only mount maker who took advantage of those grooves, so you are pretty much constrained to using their mounts. Don't think that because Webley makes the rifle their mounts have to work best. It doesn't work that way.

These cross-grooves are the Patriot's scope stops.

Only B-Square makes the correct stop for a Patriot. This is the underside of their mount.

They can be difficult to shoot until you learn their secrets
More than any other spring air rifle, each Patriot or Kodiak I have shot has had its own quirky set of likes and dislikes. I couldn't see any transfer from one gun to another. The most neutral rifle I tested had a Vortek gas spring, but that one took an additional 10 lbs. of effort to cock! Anyway, what that means is that there are a lot of folks who used to own a Patriot, and fewer who own one now and love it. Those who do love their rifles wouldn't use anything else, it seems.

Once you have the rifle dialed in, it's still not a half-inch gun at 50 yards...more like 1.5", though I've heard owners who say they do better. The trigger is very crisp and light for a sporter - on the order of 3 lbs.

Two best .25 caliber pellets
The two best pellets for Patriots that I ever saw were the Diana Magnum domed pellets that weigh about 21 grains (light for a .25) and the Beeman Kodiaks, which weigh 31 grains (heavy). I've wasted a lot of time on oddball British .25 caliber pellets that nobody has ever heard of. All that did was educate me on why they were unknown. But, the Diana Magnums at over 800 f.p.s., deliver the punch needed for medium-sized game (woodchucks and raccoons). This IS a hunting gun, after all.

The Patriot is definitely an airgun you will never forget. If you own one now, how about telling our readers what you think of the gun?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Calibers and range: Part 2

Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Today, I'll make the connection between black powder bullets and pellets, so you'll understand why a .22 caliber pellet travels just as far as a .177.

Did you notice...
...that the modern .30 caliber streamlined bullet in the 1906 cartridge went 200 yards LESS than the fat old .50 caliber black powder bullet at the Yuma test mentioned in yesterday's posting? Funny thing about that. The .30 caliber bullet is streamlined, but it was not optimized for supersonic flight. It didn't perform as well as it might have if it had it been the right shape. From that, we know that the 1906 bullet still has high drag, despite being streamlined. Remember that.

Did you ALSO notice...
...that the 675-grain .50 caliber black powder bullet (and by that term I mean that the bullet was propelled by black powder and not by smokeless powder) left the muzzle at a speed just over the speed of sound? Very soon after leaving the muzzle, certainly within the first 50 yards, it became subsonic. That bullet was very poorly streamlined for supersonic travel, so it had extremely high drag until it went subsonic again, then the drag subsided considerably. And, after it dropped below the transsonic region at something under 1,000 f.p.s. (REMEMBER THAT VELOCITY!), it lost even more drag and went into a smooth flight. From that point on, its speed dropped slowly because the heavy bullet resisted the loss better than a lighter bullet (like the 1906 .30 cal. bullet) would.

Here comes the tie-in!
Pellets are very much like black powder bullets, in that they also have high drag caused by their hollow skirts and wasp waists. These two things keep pellets on track as they fly, which is what makes them so accurate...but, they also slow them down more rapidly. So, a pellet acts very much like a huge black powder bullet in that it really likes velocities under 1,000 f.p.s. (did you remember?).

When a pellet leaves the muzzle at velocities above 1,000 f.p.s., it slows down more rapidly than the same pellet going out at 950 f.p.s. When a pellet leaves the muzzle at supersonic velocities, it loses speed so fast that it is subsonic within just a few yards. All the hype about pellets going 1,250 f.p.s is a load of dirty diapers! In fact, pellets that go out at 1,000 f.p.s. do so for only a few FEET, then they drop back from the transsonic range into the subsonic range and cruise smoothly once more.

An AirForce Condor shoots a .22 caliber Crosman Premier at 1,250 f.p.s. That pellet travels downrange no farther than the same pellet leaving the muzzle of an AirForce Talon that poops it out at 900 f.p.s.! All that extra raw power is an advantage only for the first 75 yards, or so. Of course, 75 yards is near the end of the range for hunting with smallbore airguns, which is why the Condor is so popular. Both guns have a nearly identical maximum range (muzzle elevated 30 degrees to the horizon) of about 500 yards. Ain't life wonderful? That's called having your cake and eating it, too. Of course, what you can and should do with a Condor is shoot a heavier pellet to slow down the velocity down to the subsonic region, then you will get improved accuracy, not much more pellet drop and a more powerful shot.

Conclusion - part 2
There is no way that a 7.9-grain 1,000-f.p.s., .177 caliber pellet will shoot any farther than a 14.3-grain, 800-f.p.s., .22 caliber pellet. If you don't understand this, please reread both postings carefully. What the .177 gives you is a flatter trajectory out to about 50 yards. You have to aim higher to hit with the slower pellet. After that, both pellets fall at about the same rate. Since the .22 pellet has already fallen farther than the .177, it will always be lower until the end of its flight. If both muzzles are elevated 30 degrees above the horizon, both pellets will hit the ground at approximately the same place.

I have wanted to make this argument for several years, and the thoughts suddenly came together in my mind last week. Now, you may understand when I caution against shooting at high velocity because it destroys accuracy. Just a little slower puts you back on target, plus it doesn't really penalize you if you know where to aim.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Calibers and range: Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

There seems to be a lot of confusion about calibers and how far they can shoot. I was reading an article on another website that stated that a .22 caliber pellet does not shoot as far as .177. What a load of hogwash! Today, I want to share with you the truth about range.

Most of what I will present has been learned through experiments with bullets, not pellets. However, there is a crossover in black powder testing, and I will make the bridge to pellets there.

Testing began after the American Civil War
Armies around the world were interested in the new breechloading arms. Practically every army was conducting tests, but for once, the U.S. Army was almost at the rear of every other military force on the planet. We had just emerged from an expensive five-year war and our Army sought a way to utilize the one million muzzleloading muskets they had on hand, rather than embarking on a wholesale upgrade to a new breechloader. From their efforts, the famous 1873 Trapdoor Springfield rifle emerged. Although it was obsolete on the day it was adopted, one thing was done very well in its development. The Army studied ammunition for a long time and concluded that a .45 caliber bullet was ballistically superior to the .58 caliber Minie bullet they started out with.

Other armies had also learned this lesson, and .40 to .45 caliber soon became the range of choice throughout the world. Thirteen years later (1886), the French astounded the world with the first smallbore cartridge (8mm) that used smokeless powder! Before we go there, allow me to tell you the results of a U.S. Army test done a few years ago with black powder cartridges.

Lesson No. 1: Modern radar tracks bullets in flight!
Forensic scientists who were about to have a meeting at the Yuma Proving Grounds claimed that Billy Dixon's famous 1,538-yard shot that took an Indian off a horse at the Battle of Adobe Walls couldn't have happened. Dixon's rifle, a Sharps 50/90, shot the 675-grain bullet at only 1,216 f.p.s., and several of the scientists felt the bullet couldn't go that far. At Yuma Proving Gounds, they enlisted the Army's latest counter-battery radar to track the bullet's flight when shot from a rifle donated by Shiloh Sharps. With the bore inclined 35 degrees to the horizon, they tracked the bullet out to 3,600 yards, where it finally impacted the ground, still moving at more than 350 f.p.s. When they loaded the cartridge with a 450-grain bullet and 100 grains of powder, it started out at 1,406 f.p.s., but landed only 2,585 yards away. This experiment was reported in Mike Venturino's article Sharps Rifles, just how far will they shoot? in Shotgun News, in the April 2000 issue.

The lesson? A slower-moving bullet that weighs more travels much farther than a lighter, faster bullet. But, it's not that simple. Something else is also at work. Both bullets went supersonic, but the heavy one quickly dropped to subsonic again. Supersonic flight severely limits a bullet's range UNLESS the bullet is streamlined to take full advantage of the speed!

Lesson No. 2: Why the Army's 30/03 became the 30/06
When the U.S. Army finally realized their .45 caliber single-shots were outclassed by every other rifle in the world, they had a panicky and brief flirtation with the Krag rifle (1892-1903). Thankfully, the Krag's poor showing in the Spanish/American War, pitted against the modern 1893 Mauser, completely shook the U.S. Army out of its lethargy. They began to develop a modern rifle. It was fielded in 1903, but the ammunition was still unproven. It was a .30 caliber round (the world range was now 6.5mm to 8mm) that used a 220-grain round-nosed bullet that left the muzzle at 2,300 f.p.s. To get the performance the Army wanted, however, the bullet weight was reduced to 150 grains, and the shape was streamlined at the nose. This new bullet was standardized as the 1906 .30 caliber cartridge, and the 30/06 was born.

HOWEVER, in World War I, the U.S. Army discovered that the bullets from machine guns of other armies traveled almost twice as far as their 1906 bullets. In fact, they discovered that the 1906 bullet went only 3,400 yards...38 percent less than the specifications called for. A study was undertaken to discover why. What that study discovered was that other armies were using boat-tailed bullets in their machine guns, so a detailed study of bullet shapes was made by Col. Townsend Wehlen. In 1923, he determined that a boat-tail bullet with a 9 percent rear slope would perform best. In 1923, this 174-grain boat-tailed bullet was standardized for all .30 caliber rifles and machine guns. It traveled 5,900 yards, but a reduction in velocity to keep pressures safe reduced that to 5,500 yards! It was later replaced with a lighter bullet that had less recoil, the 150-grain M2, but the lesson of bullet streamlining had been learned.

In the next section, I'll tell you how all of this relates to pellets.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Making a new spring airgun ready to shoot

by B.B. Pelletier

With all the testing and tuning of spring guns I've been doing in the past few months, I've noticed some things I do for new springers that I've never mentioned,but which makes a lot of difference in performance. I thought I'd share these things with you.

Setting the record straight - what manufactures don't do
I'm amazed at the naivete of some airgun buyers. This week, an airgun manufacturer told me of a call they received from a potential buyer. He wanted detailed performance specs on how the rifle he was interested in buying would perform with about 20 different pellets! Apparently, he believes they have a staff of lab-coated technicians who gather this kind of data! Boy, is he missing the boat! An airgun manufacturer does test guns during development and after each change, but they do it with one pellet (two at the most) they know will tell them what they need to know. This 20-pellet business exists only in the minds of unknowing dreamers. Don't think for a moment that a manufacturer has the time or inclination to test every gun they build and shoot them all for velocity and accuracy. If it's a $1,500 10-meter gun, perhaps they will shoot a group. If it's an $89 springer, they'll make sure there are screws and pins in all the holes.

You are responsible!
When you get a new airgun, it's your responsibility to ensure all the screws are tight. Don't shoot the gun before doing this. Spring guns are particularly bad in this respect. This wisdom knows no boundaries of country or brand. I've seen new Webleys with loose screws as often as I've seen new Chinese guns with them.

Steel barrel = dirty barrel!
Read the post titled Should you clean a new airgun barrel? Also, read Is your airgun barrel really clean? This is a big concern, because nearly every airgun with a steel barrel is guilty. Guns like Weihrauchs, Webleys and so on have the problem. Any airgun made in a third-world country is guaranteed to have a filthy barrel when it's new. If you just shoot and shoot the gun, eventually your pellets will scrape out all the crud, and you'll have a clean shiny bore. If you want performance right off the bat, clean the barrel!

How to clean a new steel barrel
It's best to use a one-piece steel rod with a ball bearing handle, like a Dewey. Use a brass or bronze bore brush liberally coated with as much J-B Non-Embedding Bore Cleaning Compound as you can fit on it. Clean from the breech if at all possible; clean from the muzzle if you must. Run the brush through the bore 20 strokes in each direction. Somewhere in all that, you'll notice the brushing gets much easier. That's a combination of the bore becoming clean and the brush adapting to the size of the bore. Following this cleaning, remove all traces of compound with patches. Keep cleaning until the patches come out clean.

After cleaning, preserve the barrel with Sheath, Ballistol or Break-Free. Or, just shoot the gun a lot and use nothing at all. Once the worst of the rust and dirt is out, continual shooting will keep the bore clean.

Don't oil new spring guns unless they detonate
Chinese guns and some of the new 1,000 f.p.s. inexpensive springers from American companies (many of which are also made in China) go bang when they shoot. That's called detonation. Those that smoke are not a problem, but the ones that sound like rimfires can be a problem if they continue doing it. On these guns only, put a few drops of silicone chamber oil down the transfer port. That often stops the explosions...but not always. If it doesn't, the gun may need attention from the manufacturer or dealer. Use heavier pellets to stop the explosions, as well.

That's what I do to get a new spring airgun ready to shoot.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

BAM B40 Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

by B.B. Pelletier

This is the final test to determine if the BAM B40 is worth buying. In part 1, we saw that the quality of the gun is very high for a Chinese airgun, and there are several areas for concern, such as the woodwork. In part 2, we learned that the gun is just as powerful as a TX200 Mark III, but it has a too-light trigger with no second stage. Today, we'll shoot it off a bench for accuracy.

Windy day!
This was not a perfect shooting day, as the wind was gusting from 7 to 12 mph from the 3 o'clock direction. I waited for the calmest air I could get, but the wind was always blowing. And, this part of the country is very dry, so the gnats and flies were out in force. They kept flying into my eyes to drink the moisture, and I have to say it's incredibly difficult to hold steady when there is a gnat crawling around inside your eyelashes. So, instead of 40 or even 50 yards, I set up the range at 25 yards.

The TX 200 was my control
I shot the TX 200 Mark III under the same poor conditions that the B40 faced. My TX has known accuracy. Although the conditions were hard, its groups would be the baseline for accuracy. Both rifles were scoped with Leapers 3-9x scopes, so neither one had an advantage. The TX was already sighted-in, but the B40 was not. I sighted-in at 10 yards. After a handful of shots, I had the rifle printing close to where I wanted it.

Then, the target was moved out to 25 yards. The B40 went first. From the sight-in I knew it was going to be a good shooter because it was putting all the shots into one hole, but 25 yards would show just how good it was. I shot JSB Diabolo Exact heavies, Gamo Magnum pointed, Beeman Kodiaks and H&N Field & Target pellets. The JSBs shot best in both rifles, as I thought they might, but it never hurts to check.

The first group of five JSBs from the B40 went into 0.737." Under the circumstances, that wasn't too bad. The next group went 0.780." Then I tried Kodiaks and the other pellets, but it was clear that the JSBs were the best. The final group of JSBs went 0.619."

Five JSB Exact domes from the B40 went into a group measuring 0.619" center-to-center at 25 yards.

That super-light trigger!
Concerning the trigger, I found it easier to use off the bench than I have reported thus far. I'm now certain it releases at under 4 oz., but the pull is very long and that gives me a measure of control. I don't think it's unsafe, but I do wish there was a positive second stage. A hunter will have to be very careful with this one.

Now for the control
My TX 200 Mark III has had thousands of shots fired through it, and I have the trigger set exactly the way I like. I am so familiar with the way this rifle shoots that I thought I'd have no trouble shooting better groups with it. But the first group of JSBs went into 0.768." That's larger than the first B40 group. So I settled down and shot a second group - also 0.768." Then, I shot the other pellets, just to make sure the JSBs were still the most accurate, and of course they were. A final group of JSBs went into, you guessed it, 0.768." Now, I'm sure these groups do vary by several thousandths, but it's just too difficult to see where those tiny pellet holes begin when you shoot domed pellets. Still, there is a very large difference between six-tenths of an inch and almost eight-tenths. You can see it with your eyes - no calipers required.

The TX 200 gave three 5-shot groups measuring an identical 0.768" at 25 yards. While that was good under the conditions of the day, it wasn't as good as the B40.

The BAM B40 wins!
In this test on this particular day, the B40 out-shot my TX 200. It was a hands-down clear victory. Yes, the day was less than perfect, but both rifles had to endure it, so the test was fair. On a different day, the results might be different, but I don't think the B40 needs any apologies - it is a very accurate air rifle.

Comparing to some others we know
To put this into perspective for you, on the same day a Gamo CF-X might have produced 1.25" groups under the same conditions. A Beeman R1 would have been the same or perhaps a little better. The RWS Diana 48 might have shot a one-inch group. The TX is really the best air rifle I have seen, until now, so this B40 is remarkably accurate. At least the one I tested is.

Can they keep the quality consistent?
One thing that has plagued Chinese manufacturers is quality control. They cannot keep a consistent level of goods flowing from the factory in most industries. The optics industry is one notable exception, and there is, no doubt, a lot of foreign oversight behind that. Chinese airguns are at the other end of the quality spectrum, and that fact should keep potential buyers wary for a long time to come. BAM seems to have produced an exceptional rifle in the B40, and if they can maintain the level seen in this single rifle, then it's time for England and Germany to become concerned.

The .22 is next
Pyramyd Air also made a .22 caliber B40 available for testing, so that will be next. I plan to look at it just as critically as this rifle, and I hope it passes muster!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Instinct shooting with a BB gun - Part 2

Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Yesterday, I told you about the instinct shooting program started by Lucky McDaniel in 1954. Today, I want to show you how well that program works and who has taken it over the years.

The technique
What the training does is teach you how to mount a BB gun (put it up to your shoulder and cheek) the same way every time. This takes some time to learn, but you immediately start shooting at targets tossed in the air. The way you hold the gun and the way you lean into the shot are important. You learn to ignore the front of the gun and to look, instead, at the moving target. You're supposed to look above the target when you shoot, and both eyes are kept open. There's no squeezing of the trigger, either. You pull it deliberately when the shot is lined up.

Size doesn't matter
The teacher stands next to the student and the targets are thrown out from the student and up to a 75-degree angle from the horizontal. The first target is a 3" aluminum disk. When the student consistently hits this target, they go to a 2" disk, then a 1" disk and on down in size until the student is hitting Alka Seltzer tablets on every throw. The time it takes to get to that point varies with each person, but it ranges from one hour to an hour and a half. If you want to continue, you'll move on to shooting aspirins...and, finally, BBs! According to Lucky, the size of the target doesn't matter.

Moving on
There's also a moving ground target and some stationary targets. The student can progress to .22 rimfire and shotgun if desired. Lucky also taught instinct shooting with handguns. Once the student was shooting by instinct with a BB gun, he could quickly adapt to any new gun and target situation. According to Lucky, the fact that the student could see the BB in flight made the the BB gun the best instinct trainer.

Lucky trained over 100,000 shooters, including those at Fort Benning, but a list of his celebrity students is very revealing. There isn't room for a complete list, but it includes former President Eisenhower, Mickey Mantle, Audie Murphy, Mark Trail cartoonist Ed Dodd, Edsel and Henry Ford II, John Wayne, Grizzly Adams, members of the British Royal Family, the entire Chicago White Sox team (1959) and the entire Cincinnati Reds team (1961). But there was one celebrity student who stood out from even these notables.

Lucky trained World Heavyweight Champion Floyd Patterson to shoot his way. A major part of Mike Jennings' book (Instinct Shooting) is devoted to the training of this one student, whom Lucky considered to be one of his best. A skilled athlete, Patterson had perfect coordination and quick reflexes that made him a natural shooter. In return, Patterson said that he felt the training helped him focus on his target better than ever. Shortly after this training, Patterson met Amateur World Heavyweight Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Pete Rademacher and dropped him in round six. Rademacher later came out with an instinct shooting set that featured Parris BB guns and a trap that threw plastic "clay" pigeons. The set didn't sell well, but Crosman's 1100 Trapmaster trap is an exact copy! So, somehow, Rademacher must have seen something of benefit in the training, as well.

Since Lucky passed away in the 1990s, a number of other instinct shooting trainers have come onto the scene. Exhibition shooter Chief AJ is perhaps the most notable today, even having Daisy make special BB guns with longer stocks and his name on them. This is a fascinating niche within airguns, and a wealth of material and history await the serious collector.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Instinct shooting with a BB gun - Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

Instinct shooting has been around for a very long time, but those who practiced it most were exhibition shooters. There was no formal program to teach anyone who wanted to learn. Then. in 1954, a tobacco salesman from Georgia - Lucky McDaniel - started a program of instruction. He taught thousands of people through the 1980s and several of his students went into the teaching business on their own.

Special guns
At first, Lucky used .22 rimfires. In circumstances where he couldn't use them, he substituted BB guns. The sights were removed from all guns so the student would concentrate on Lucky's method of mounting the gun. A BB gun's sights are usually just snapped off with a pair of pliers. Before long, however, Lucky found himself wanting to have a special gun made for his training, so he approached Daisy.

In 1958, Lucky went to Daisy and demonstrated his method to their top brass in the company parking lot. It took the better part of the day, because they were fascinated with what they saw. The result was the creation of a special Daisy Lucky McDaniel Instinct Shooting Set. It came out in 1959 and was made for only one year. They probably didn't move very fast, because without the training people didn't know what to make of a gun that had no sights.

Daisy's Lucky McDaniel shooting set was made for just one year.

Quick Kill
In the years that followed, the U.S. Army became interested in instinct shooting for Vietnam-bound soldiers. They had a regular training program given at Fort Benning, Georgia, not far from Lucky's home in Columbus. They called their program "Quick Kill," and tens of thousands of inductees went through it. There was also a program in Vietnam for those who hadn't been to Benning.

The Army buys BB guns
Daisy became interested, again, when grass roots inquiries tipped the scales, and they put together a new package. This time, Lucky's name was left off, and the program was called "Quick Skill." It lasted from the late 1960s through the end of the 20th century, coming and going as interest dictated. The Army sold many of their BB guns in the 1990s, so now there are hundreds and perhaps even thousands of sightless BB guns with the markings of Army training centers painted on their stocks or "U.S. Prop." stamped into the wood. Collectors eagerly snap them up. There have also been many special guns, such as one made with the Ducks Unlimited logo on a decal on the stock.

Parris guns
Lucky went to the Parris Manufacturing Company to have a gun built for his program. These guns look like the model I showed you in the post about the Parris Kadet Trainer, but Lucky's guns have his decal on the stock. While they shouldn't have sights, all the ones I have examined, which have only been about five, did have both front and rear sights.

Two books about the program
Both books are highly collectible. The first is Instinct Shooting and was written by Mike Jennings and published in 1959 by Dodd, Mead. It was included in the Daisy Lucky McDaniel shooting set box. Expect to pay $30 to $50 for this book (used). Lucky co-authored his own book with Bill Reece in 1980 - Lucky McDaniel's Secrets To Shooting. This book comes in hardcover from Cosco Press, a division of Columbus Office Supply Company, and in softcover from Waldrup Printing Co. You'll pay $50 to $125 for either of Lucky's books. There are also numerous Army publications and Infantry School publications about Quick Kill.

In all, there is a wealth of material and guns for the collector who is interested in shooting without sights. I haven't told you the best parts yet: the program, itself, or how well you will shoot when you learn. And, I haven't told you who took the training. That'll be in Part 2.

Monday, October 02, 2006

How are barrels rifled? - Part 2
Button rifling

Part 1

by B.B. Pelletier

First, the rifling broach
Before we begin, let me explain something I left out of Part 1, where I talked about cut-rifling. I explained how cut-rifling works, but I didn't include the high-speed modern way of doing it, which is the rifling broach. Instead of just one cutting surface, a broach has cutters for every rifling groove, so it cuts them all at the same time. And, a gang broach, like the one shown, has progressively deeper (higher) cutters behind one another, so the entire barrel can be fully rifled in a single pass. Broach rifling is the modern, cheaper way of doing cut-rifling, however, the cutting broach takes a long time to make and must be sharpened often on all cutting surfaces. A small shop making all different calibers still cuts the grooves one at a time.

This gang broach can rifle a barrel in one pass. It is a chore to make and keep sharp.

Button rifling - faster and cheaper
Another way to rifle barrels is the most popular method used today. The button rifling method doesn't cut the rifling pattern - it irons it into the barrel! A carbide tool called a button is either pushed (most common) or pulled through the barrel. As it moves, the hydraulic head also turns at the desired rifling twist rate. It is correct to say the button engraves a reverse of itself inside the bore, but it doesn't do it by cutting. Instead, it displaces metal, actually hardening and smoothing the inside of the barrel as it goes.

A rifling button irons the bore into shape. This one is for microgroove rifling.

Rifling buttons wear just as broaches do, but because of how they are shaped and how they work, the wear is slower. Also, they leave a mirror surface behind them. Many of today's custom barrelmakers use the button method, as do many high-volume barrelmakers.

Metal stresses
Unlike the cut-rifling method, the button method sets up stresses in the barrel. These have to be dealt with, or the barrel will "walk" as it heats up during firing. You can always tell a cheap barrel; as it heats up, it starts spraying shots in an ever-expanding pattern. A good button-rifled barrel has been properly stress-relieved and can group as well as a cut-rifled barrel. While it may take an hour to cut-rifle a barrel with a modern barrelmaking machine, a button-rifled barrel can be rifled in about a minute. More time will then be spent on relieving stress (or not), but the total doesn't add up to the manhour that's invested in a cut-rifled barrel. And, remember, if the man running the machine makes $20/hour, the barrel will have to include $100 just to cover his cost. The cost of the blank, of drilling the hole and of reaming and lapping are all extra. A good cut-rifled barrel will retail for $400 and up, while quality button-rifled barrels may start at $150.

Longer life
As the button irons the bore, it hardens the steel, resulting in a barrel that can outlast a cut-rifled barrel. Further steps, such as cryogenic treatment and plating with hard chrome, will add even more wear resistance. That's a strong sales point, as long as the stresses have been properly relieved. In airguns, there are no hot combustion gases to worry about; but, in a firearm, the gases actually vaporize the steel of the bore over time. Button-rifled bores are more resistant to this. Also, they usually do not need to be lapped after rifling, though the top custom makers (e.g., Lilja) still do.

We've looked at two of the three popular rifling methods. Next time, we'll look at hammer-forging, which is the fastest method of all and also the most troublesome.